Anyone still prepared to take David Cameron at his word can be sure there is at least one issue on which his promises can be safely discounted: immigration.
As his term runs out, he is presiding over net immigration each year of a quarter of a million despite his famous election pledge to cut that figure to ‘tens of thousands’. If he were minded to make amends with what little time he can still count on, he should focus on the epicentre of the deepening crisis of illegal immigration into Britain that is the increasingly volatile Calais.
Last month, I was the first and so far the only British politician in direct talks inside Calais Town Hall with those we need to work with to have any chance of stemming the daily flow of illegal entries. What I learned there is a devastating indictment of EU failure, but no less so of the failure of the Conservative-led coalition to protect our borders even to the extent still possible.
This is all the more inexcusable as the seriousness of the situation at Calais cannot easily escape notice. The French media certainly have, reporting that regional government now estimates the number of arrests each week in Calais arising from migration at 1000 – an incredible figure each week for a town comparable in size to Margate.
Officials in Calais will tell you that they simply do not know how many illegal immigrants are loose in their town. The latest estimate is 3,000 with countless more arriving continually. The one thing on which everyone there does agree – including the illegal immigrants I spoke in person to myself – is that their destination is Britain come what may.
Naturally, I wasn’t surprised that the only two announcements on this from Downing Street turned out to be irrelevant PR stunts. David Cameron’s offer to send Calais authorities the steel fences used at the NATO summit in Newport? It’s been a while, and they’re nowhere to be seen in Calais. Deputy Mayor Philippe Mignonet was not exactly overflowing with gratitude for the offer either: he told me, “I’ve no idea what I’d do with them anyway”.
When talks turned to Cameron’s other attempt to bury the matter, the £12million wired across the Channel from the Treasury in Whitehall allegedly earmarked to address the crisis, Monsieur Mignonet was perfectly clear when speaking to me that far from being a credible policy response, this has gone not to the Calais authorities but straight into the central French treasury, possibly making it one of the most expensive press releases yet issued.
Given that France’s national debt today passed the two trillion euro mark, presumably at least François Hollande is grateful for the Prime Minister’s contribution on behalf of British taxpayers to staving off French bankruptcy. The Conservatives should count on less gratitude from those finding an illegal immigrant sitting baffled in their garden, as happened in Kent recently, or learning that we are paying for illegal immigrants to reside in luxury hotels with no security controls whatsoever preventing them from walking out the front door, as is now routine practice by this government.
There are things we can do even before we wrest back control of who comes into our country by freeing ourselves from the EU diktat that makes that ultimately impossible for now. The most obvious is to demand that France and the EU do what they long ago said they would do and insist that illegal immigrants are processed in the first EU country they enter – and, if not legally present, by repatriated in accordance with long-standing provisions.
If David Cameron switched from sending cheques to Paris to a policy instead of putting enough pressure on the French President to stick to his legal obligations and stop dumping the problem onto Britain, French authorities might start to think seriously about repatriating the thousands crowding around the EuroTunnel entrance rather than tolerating the countless attempts to violate our borders.
Then there is Brussels, a lost cause naturally, but where the Conservative-led coalition should at least be conducting the necessary diplomatic campaign to get what help we can.
Sitting for UKIP and speaking for Britain on the EU’s Civil Liberties, Justice, and Home Affairs committee, I put this issue directly to outgoing Migration Commissioner Cecelia Malmström, during the supposed ‘hearing’ to rubber-stamp his appointment, to her even more anonymous successor on the brief Dimitris Avramopoulos.
The first simply refused outright to address my question and the latter might as well as done so too for all he actually offered.